Have you played Contra? Have you played Metal Slug? Well, if you played at least both of them, then good, cause you'll love that one game that pays homage to it. It's a game made by Tribute Games called Mercenary Kings. Never heard of it? Well, Mercenary Kings basically pays tribute to classic run and guns shooters like Metal Slug and Contra, the ones that I've mentioned earlier. It also does the best to make the old new again, by adding an amount of depth through the use of design elements from other gamers, so to speak.
Ok, I know you want to see how Mercenary Kings is a good game. You know I am too, so let's just quit lollygagging around like a fool and get to the game design! Now then, the actual game design of Mercenary Kings surprisingly shares a lot with the Monster Hunters series. Don't know the Monster Hunter series, then you better give this s**t a try cause it's amazing. Hell, I even love the Monster Hunter series as well! I played the first and I got hooked at it! Ok, am I getting off topic, comrades? ...Let get back to the review. Anyway, Mercenary Kinds share quite a lot with the Monster Hunter series (yes, I already said that, but who cares.) You don't really collect guns like Metal Slug and Contra. No, here in Mercenary Kings, you build guns instead. The game focuses on one thing: Loot. However, the loot is crafting materials, rather than finding those weapons themselves. There are plenty of different guns you can made in Mercenary Kings. Hell, you can even mix and match parts from the standard version of each gun to create some fun combinations. I mean seriously, the handle of a pistol? Body of a shotgun? Barrel of that sniper rifle? and the magazine of a SMG (sub-machine gun)? Combine all that s**t together and you got one kickass gun for hire. Of course... it won't work slightly but hey, it's an option. Experimenting weapons build can be tons of fun too. OH! I almost forget that you can even build new types of ammunition as well as add elemental properties to your own cool weapons.
And then comes the next part. Here, Mercenary Kings borrows a large number of sources. For starters, there are human enemies and the hostage rescue mechanic that recalls the Metal Slug series, as well as some robotic enemies influenced by the Mega Man series (but mostly the Mega Man X series!). Even the gameplay elements "almost" feels like a Mega Man game! And if that's not enough, the "active reload" mechanic is also taken from Gears of War. Well god damn, that's a s**tload of mechanics influenced by many games.
The presentation of Mercenary Kings is also quite fitting for a game that feels like the love letter to the 8-bit and 16-bit eras of gaming consoles you comrades know and love. The retro music pulls you back to a time where most video game soundtracks were all about the melody over the atmosphere. But that's not all, folks! The pixel art designs adds a great deal of both charm and character.
Each portion of Mercenary Kings is broken up into a series of rank, and each rank contains a number of missions. Well usually, the missions in each rank only use two or three of the game's levels. Howeven, the objectives are quite different, and depending on wherever the bloody hell you selected the mission to accomplish, you'll be visiting the different areas of each level. Enemy type and placement also changes, especially when a new rank takes you back to the older level. Expect a little bit of "Wait...Didn't I did this before?" feeling to some missions. But you know what? That can be a good thing later on when a mission like this may give you only 15 minutes to find eight hostages in one sitting.
Oh....that reminds me, there's a goddamn time limit associated with it, which honestly will be a turn-off for some player like all you numbnuts out there. Of course, the timer is actually a fairly important part of the game design, after all, who doesn't want to be stuck in a goddamn mission for almost 30 minutes to a freakin' hour anyway? It keeps you moving, and prevent you from exploring sections of the level that ain't a part of your mission, which of course keeps them fresh for later. It also allows you to play the game in short burts, while being pretty aware of the maximum (or minimum) time that each session will take you. And even more importantly, no failed mission is ever a damn waste of time. You get to keep all the crafting materials you've collected during the mission you've selected to complete, whether you successfully completed or utterly failed the mission. Although...I shall defend the mission timer, as there were several flaws and frustrating design choices. But that s**t doesn't stop me from loving this game! However my main issue is the multiplayer, which I'm gonna reviews later, which allows you to play campaign online or locally with up to at least three other players. Speaking of which....
In multiplayer of Mercenary Kings, all players play on the same time, but when playing online it can be easy to get too far behind or ahead or your online comrades, which can quickly result in two things: 1. Leave you lost in the level and 2. Missing the point of playing multiplayer in the first place. There's no on-screen directional indicators as to where your friends might be. You see numbnuts, each player does appear on the map screen, but there's no goddamn mini-map, And looking at the map screen happens in real time, whether in both single or multiplayer. Sure you may get the idea of where your buddies are, but they'll also already moving further away from you while attempting to locate them. Speaking of which...I think the layout of these levels is why on-screen indicators is not included. Entering a door teleports you to the next aprt of the level, so it would be confusing to see a buddy enter a door a bit to the right of you, then, appear down and to the left. But despite all this crap, the game is still fun to play with all four of your buddies out there. And I know, I damn know that this is true when it comes to matherial gathering, collecting some loots, shooting some maggots, and multiple hostage rescues.
Aside from multiplayer, there are a couple of other little design quirks that range from annoying, to even worse....RAGE QUITTING! You know you don't want to s**t to happen do you? Well, DO YOU?! Well, you better not rage quit or you'll regret it. The worst of which is the fact that bosses will sometimes leave in the middle of the fight for no goddamn reason! That pissed me off a bit, why the hell would bosses leave in the middle of a goddamn fight?! ...I have no comment. After that you'll be forced to track them down again to continue the fight. And you wanna know what's BS? The bosses will even leave right as you're about to start fighting them....again! At first I assumed that is happened because I wasn't shooting 'em quickly enough or I lost a s**tload of health, but a couple of times, I just noticed it happening after fighting a boss for literally about 10 to 15 seconds. Well...thanksfully, the bosses doesn't seem to regain health, so whenever you track them maggots down again, at least you'll be able to resume the fight where you last left off. Some missions also feature bosses that never relocate, which is nice to see.
Going into this title, I expected to get a four-player run-and-gun shooter with some loot-crafting and exploration elements thrown in just for variety. And yes numbnuts, that could be a basic description of the game, but that doesn’t really do it justice. Mercenary Kings is more than the sum of its perfectly pilfered parts. Despite all the influences, it’s a very unique game that combines elements from several specific games (just as I've mentioned earlier) and genres to create an experience of its own. Overall, I defintely enjoyed my visit into the world of Mercenary Kings. I would be damn happy to return there someday.
Despite some questionable design decisions, there's a great time to be had with Mercenary Kings. With a ton of content, great presentation values, and an addictive mission structure, this s**t right here will keep you coming back for more. Give this game a try and you'll be one amazed maggot.